17 November 2011 #Employment
In Copple & others v Littlewoods Plc & others the employer`s pension scheme had historically been closed to part- time employees. The employer opened it up to part-time employees, after recognising that closing the scheme was indirectly discriminatory against women given that often more women than men work on a part-time basis.
The employer did not allow retrospective pension rights for the `closed period` to employees who had not joined within three months of it opening to them. The employer applied the `opt-out` principle; i.e. if you did not join the scheme when you could, then you would not have joined earlier and so there is no loss. The Claimants challenged this reasoning as being incompatible with EU law.
The Court of Appeal held that the employer’s approach was compatible with EU law. However, the Court of Appeal clarified that if the reason an employee deferred joining the pension scheme was down to their exclusion in the first place, then they would still be entitled to retrospective pension rights if they subsequently joined the pension scheme.